The White House released the National COVID-19 Preparedness plan. The administration stated that it aims to make the country safe and continue making progress two years after the pandemic.
Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator, praised the plan as “robust” and “comprehensive” at the briefing of the White House COVID-19 team. The plan was the result of weeks-long work with experts from both government and private sectors.
He reiterated President Biden’s comments and said that the administration was ready to roll out vaccines for children younger than 5 years of age.
He also mentioned the “Test to Treat”, an initiative that the president announced Tuesday night at his State of the Union address, as well as the effort to make COVID-19 testing and N95 masks more readily available at home.
Americans can get coronavirus testing at a pharmacy, and receive antiviral medication “on-the-spot” if they are positive.
Zients said that the government would launch a website in March to make it easier for Americans to find tools at their convenience.
Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), later stated that the government had distributed more than 270,000,000 free N95s and COVID-19 tests to 70 million households.
He stated that the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, would expand research and increase data sharing. If Congress provides funding, there is also the possibility of launching new centers.
Becerra stated that the administration would coordinate an “all government effort” to support families and children who have lost a loved one to COVID-19. The focus will also be on strengthening mental- and behavioral health services.
HHS will continue to address the needs of seniors, persons with disabilities, and immunocompromised people according to the secretary.
The 96-page National COVID-19 Preparedness plan focuses on four main goals: protecting against and treating the disease; preparing for new variants; preventing economic and education shutdowns, and leading the global effort to immunize the world.
Zients stated that the U.S. variant tracking system is available to respond and can now detect variants up to a “very low” level.
He stated that the plan would create stocks of personal protective equipment, treatments, and tests and that it would also continue to ensure that workers, schools, and workplaces have all the resources they require.
This includes a clean air in building checklist from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a request to Congress to restore tax credits to small and medium-sized businesses that offer paid sick leave and family leave.
Zients stated that Zients’ plan included continuing to give vaccines around the world and “doubling down efforts to turn those vaccines to vaccinations.”
More than 215 million Americans have been fully vaccinated to date. Two-thirds of eligible Americans have had a booster shot.
Zients noted that the plan calls for Congress to invest in tools and that the plan is opposed to the idea of “living with COVID”.
Tuesday’s statement by the president stated that his administration will not give up on increasing vaccinations in America and would not leave anyone behind.
Biden stated that vaccines could be deployed in 100 days as a response to a new variant, and he will soon request Congress to do so.